“Permission to board?” I called.
I tottered up the gangplank dragging my duffel and peeked over the cap rail. He had been there a moment ago when Bruce and Ryan climbed aboard. I shrugged, happy to be able to clamber onto the deck without an audience just in case I tripped over the rail and landed with a splat. It takes a while to gain my sea legs, like maybe a week, or a month. I picked my way across the rain soaked deck and peered down the gangway. A tall, thin man with graying whiskers stuck his head through the opening. He smiled.
“Welcome aboard the Lady Washington.” He stuck out his hand and grasped mine in a firm shake. “I’m John Paul, the steward. May I take your bag?” He hefted the dunnage below as he called out, “You’re welcome to come below. We have coffee and hot cider.”
“No, thanks,” I said. We were in intermission. I whipped out my camera and shot pictures before the rain’s act two began. Crew appeared from the forward hatch, the after hatch, up the gangway, all busy performing chores. Tiller, the terrier mix, went ashore with Sara, the boatswain. Nelson and his daughter, Amy and granddaughter, Maddie boarded and John Paul guided them below.
The captain, Jeremiah, appeared on the quarterdeck and the order was given to get underway. Crew jumped to action, hauling in the gangplank, calling out positions, preparing to take in fenders and untying the lines. The big diesel engine sprang to life and we began to inch away from the dock. Jesse, a young man in a plaid flannel shirt swung up from the dock, clearing the bulwark and landing lithely on deck.
“Rain’s coming.” Beth, the purser’s mate said.
I glanced up, flipping open my case and stuffing the camera inside. Light gray clouds with intermittent patches of blue drifted overhead. “Where?”
She shrugged. “Astern.”
Behind us black clouds shed a wall of hazy liquid over the water. I shivered. We zipped against the current of the
Beth squinted aft, swung her eyes up the mast to the flags and dropped them to me. “No.”
Dear lord. I put up my hood.
Within a few minutes sheets of rain hammered the deck. Crew flipped open hatches and dropped below, reappearing in rain gear. Amy and Maddie clutched their hoods at their necks and inched toward the gangway on the wet deck. I leaned against the belaying pins on the quarterdeck while the wind whipped through my trousers. The captain held steady, dressed in an olive drab rain slicker and fur-lined hat. On the flaps covering his ears a skull and crossbones warned.
“Do you want to go below?” one of the crew asked.
“No, I’m fine. This isn’t bad.” My gloves--purchased the day before at a sporting goods store--kept my hands warm and dry and my rain boots performed their task admirably. This wasn’t so bad. Back in 1805, the sailors would have been fine if they’d had the right clothing. But then frigid wind gusted and icy white balls pelted my jacket and danced across the deck. My scarf edged up over my ears and my gloved hands jammed into my pockets. I glanced down and watched rain run out of the scuppers like gutter water out of a drain.
Stop by again for Part 3